A Beginners Journal: YOGA & MEDITATION

(By contributing writer, student and ‘eternal work in progress’ – Anita Quigley Atherton).

I have been threatening to do Yoga for around 15 years and now, finally, am about to start. No more excuses. Believe me, there have been plenty. At 35 years of age, my well of excuses has dried up so it’s time to “feel the fear and do it anyway” to walk the talk and see what all the hoopla is about.

I need something. I’m not sure what. My divine GP diagnosed me a year or so ago (after years of career and lifestyle-induced anxiety and mild depression) as a “highly intelligent, over-achieving, perfectionist, control freak” – which are my STRONG points.

From my early 20s I pursued a high powered career in Marketing of which all of my key roles left me with heart palpitations, cold sweats, sleepless nights and a hangover that lasted for 10 years. Ah, the Good Old Days. During those heady days I preferred to worship at the altar of booze and fags and spent most of the late nineties and early ‘noughties’ either drunk or hungover– all in the name of ‘stress-relief’. It was medicinal and therefore okay.

In 2005 I had my first child. With the arrival of “God’s Handbrake” as I referred to my darling Sam at the time, recklessness had to take a back seat. I still thought I could do and have it all though. Sam went into childcare at 10 months old and I resumed full time work and encountered a whole new set of anxieties, which all fell under the caps lock, bold, italic, underlined heading of GUILT.

Combine Mother’s Group, childless co-workers, long hours, early drop-offs, late pick-ups, development milestones, deadlines, mix well and let sit for about three years. The boozing and fagging of my 20s at the hottest joints in town went underground. Instead, we entertained at home – a LOT.

Still racked with anxiety (Perfect mother? Fail. Perfect wife? Fail. Perfect employee? Fail. Perfect body, spirit and mind? EPIC FAIL) I went back to my GP and explained the new anxiety paradigm and was prescribed marvelous little pink pills called ALPRAZOLAM. For me, a miracle pill. Loved the stuff. No really. I LOVED it. The peace I sought in my mind and body had arrived, along with a mildish addiction to a highly addictive drug.

By the end of 2009 I had a second beautiful son – Gus (also in childcare from 10 months old – one must be fair), experienced my first professional redundancy and ensuing court case, lived in a dream home we could no longer afford on one income, a discreet bottle of wine a night – or two – habit; something had to change.

From that point my husband and I have made some monumental changes. We moved house, Sam started primary school, I had a delightful dip into Pilates (cut short by not only the change of address but also a series of short sharp expulsions of air from the nether regions while carrying out the Rolling Ball manoeuvre) which stripped off kilos and had me feeling fitter than ever. We decided that I would stay at home with the kids and work freelance with a select group of close clients.

So here I am at the end of 2011 about to embark on my first Yoga class – this Sunday in fact. I am on a constant spiritual quest. I read voraciously – Buddhism for Mothers is always at my bedside. I seek peace. I want to bring a peaceful me to every situation I face. I am fearful that I won’t be good enough; that I am not fit; that I am not bendy; that my beer-swilling, AFL loving husband will reject me; that the change might overwhelm me; and most importantly on the social quotient – that I will expel air sharply from the nether regions.

What am I expecting from Yoga? Not much.

What am I hoping for? Weight loss (emotional and physical). Bendiness. Quieting the monkeys in my mind. Inner peace. That Buddha smile. Energy. Enthusiasm. Finding my purpose. Emitting light. Yes. A full-on miracle.

Wish me luck. AQA xxx


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How do I look?

“Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important”. Janet Lane.

Over the past three weeks I had the intention of writing whilst I unhurriedly made my way through the charming streets of Paris. However, there was simply too much to see and too much to savour and in this instance crème brulee and chocolate mousse simply won out. Not to mention the Pantheon, Saint Chapelle, Monet’s gardens and all the sumptuous iconic sites, book stalls, and tea houses of this extraordinary city.

I love to observe and had time to do so sitting in cute little cafés whilst tapping into my school French! I was constantly in awe (and sometimes in shock) of how people carry themselves both physically and emotionally. What can you see when you observe? What attracts you to another?

As always, travelling is about the people you meet. It is about those special moments when a smile lifts your heart and knowledge is exchanged. Whether one is donned in Chanel or Dior, nothing is more attractive than a smile! And it was a 6-year-old’s smile that connected me to Paris.

I was sitting in a café nestled alongside a little boy and his mother. I noticed the child when I entered the café. The waitresses were pouring affection upon him and he was chatty, bright and exuberant with large inquisitive eyes and a personality of sunshine. As I was chatting away to my friend opposite me, the boy’s mother politely interrupted our conversation to say that her child, Noa, would like to say how lovely my ear-rings were. I turned around to him and melted into his big smile and replied how thankful I was for the compliment. With that he asked permission to kiss me! (They mature early in France!). And alas a friendship was borne!

Thus followed an animated conversation with Moira and Noa and a consequent day spent together learning about life in France. Nothing was too much trouble….fun, laughter, hospitality and kindness! It’s moments like these that make your stay so wonderful. The photo above is of Moira’s children. You can see the delight and joy in these little beings.

Only yesterday I had a new student express to me that one of the things she wanted to gain from yoga was ‘to smile’ more often. Of course by being internally peaceful and happy one will then exude warmth and in turn connect positively with those around them.

I know I am always talking about smiling and the expression one carries, but I realize more and more how important it is for us to become mobile portraits of ‘joie de vivre’, the exultation of spirit.

“Look up not down; smile don’t frown; live with grace, gratitude and kindness” Annemaree